Khmer Sayings

In the former Cambodian society, people have gone through many experience f life, and they want to guide and advise the next generations with some insights and directions, which later on known as lessons learned from the informal society. For any particular life experience, situation or circumstance, there was a lesson learned drawn from it. Those lessons learned were formed and transformed into good and beautiful sentences (often with rhyme words) to make people easy to say and remember, and finally become “sayings”. For me, Khmer sayings and Cambodian lessons learned from the former Khmer society are the same. 

During the course of time, while some sayings still useful and powerful for the current Cambodian society, some others become irrelevant or even hindering forces to the positive social changes. In other words, there are sayings that influence Cambodian behaviors positively and sayings that influence people’s behaviors negatively. Some old Khmer  sayings are not relevant at all for the current society (meaningless). Below are some sayings that still have powerful influences on Cambodian attitudes and practices:




Khmer sayings that facilitate learning and change


  Tork Tork Penh Bampong

Do thing step by step; small things (saving) will be accumulated to a big one.

(Direct meaning came from Cambodian countryside while people produce palm sugar)

  Drop by drop fills the(bamboo) container




Ches min chhnah chorng

Willingness get more successes than knowledge. It gives values to person’s attitudes rather than his or her knowledge.


Knowing is not better

than willingness



  Ches mok pi rean,mean mok pi rork

This saying encourages people to learn and to work hard (not lazy), if s/he wishes

 to become knowledgeable and rich.

  Knowledge come from learning, wealth from business




  Ches dob min smoeuning prasab mouy

Being skillful is far better than just having knowledge. This saying gives more values to

people’s talent and their creativity in achieving the goal.

  Know 10 is not equalthan 1 skillfulness



  Damrey choeung bourn kung mean ploat, nek prach ches stoat kung mean phlek Everyone makes mistakes. No one can avoid mistakes. Making mistakes is human natural.
  4-feet elephant will surely trip, professional wise man will surely forget



  Kmas lngung toeb ches,Kmas kror toeb mean

Being sensitive to your weaknesses so that you can overcome them.

If you don’t care about them, nothing will be improved.

  Feeling shame of being ignorant leads to be knowledgeable, feeling shame of poor leads to be rich.



  Khoeng koch, khoeng khat We need to control our temper (anger) so that everything will go smooth without disasters.
  Anger is damage,anger is waste





Khmer sayings that hinder learning and change


  Strey bangvel changkran min chum

Women has limited ability to do thing. The prioritized work for women is around

household (such as cooking, cleaning, children etc.)

  Women cannot manage around stove



  Kloun tirp kom toung dey kley kom choung sra war aub phnom Do not try to do anything beyond your abilities and available resources.
  Do not try to grasp the mountain with your short  body and short arms



  Kom Kit dochchao chak smok This is a saying from a Cambodian folk story. A man sat on the top of a palm tree, and was making a box from the palm leaves. While he was doing, he started to dream with a logical steps, i.e. when I have produced so many boxes, I will get a lot of money, and when I get a lot of money I will do this, then this …, finally I can hire a housemaid to work for me, and if the housemaid does not work and behave appropriately for me, I will kick him. While dreaming to this stage, the man has made a real kicks down the palm tree, and unfortunately he fell down from the palm tree .
  Do not think like the man, who makes palm leave box



  Num min thomcheang neal Parents have power / control over their children.Parents can make decision on behalf of their children.

What the children have to do is to comply the parents’ decision.

  Cake is not biggerthan its basket



  Khoenh damrey chuh, kom chuh tam damrey Do not try to do anything beyond your capacity and ability. Do not be ambitious!
  See elephant defecates, do not defecate as it does



  Kom put sralao,kom pradao srey koch Sralao is a kind of tree.The saying means that you cannot change anything from its nature.

Prostitutes are not be able to be educated to change their attitud

  Do not bend sralao, do not educate prostitute




Khmer sayings about power



Pong moan kom chul ning thmor

Weak (powerless) people not to challenge powerful people.

Egg not to hit stone




Phnom mouy min del mean kla pi

There is only one powerful person, who has the control over one area (location).
  A mountain neverhas two tigers



  Changkes mouy bach kach min bak Represents the power of solidarity or being togethe
  A bunch of sticks cannot be broken



  Tek loeng trey sisra-mauch, tek hauch sra-mauch si trey A powerful person will certainly powerless in some circumstance, and the powerless person will be powerful in another circumstance. Circumstances can change people’s power status.
  when water raises,fish eats ant,

when water decreases,

ant eats fish


Source: http://www.camlefa.org/cam_sayings.html


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